Toronto singer-songwriter Jesse Labelle digs deep

With two albums already under his belt, Jesse Labelle, Toronto-born singer and songwriter, knows well the ups and downs of the music industry. His second album, Two, released in 2012, allowed the charismatic pop star to break through and reach a wider mainstream audience.

Two years later, Labelle has found himself moving in a very new direction with his latest yet-to-be-named project.

Jesse Labelle’s debut as a country artist is slated for July 12 at the Calgary Saddledome. He will be the opening act for a sold-out crowd of 12,000 screaming Keith Urban fans.

The first single off his new album will be released this summer.

The very talented Canadian musician has had the good fortune of performing alongside some truly talented and awe-inspiring artists and musicians such as Sir Elton John and fellow Canadian artist Alyssa Reid.

Labelle first started singing and songwriting when he was 17 — first stepping onstage during a high school concert and following that up with open mic performances in the cafeteria of Forest Hill Collegiate Institute. “I was that guy in the hall with a guitar, asking girls what their favourite songs were and learning them that night,” he says, laughing.

“That sort of bashful youthfulness definitely worked toward my advantage personally, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, it wound up being the reason I was first discovered.”

Labelle has been labelled a heartthrob for most of his career. His first two albums, Perfect Accident and Two, have paved the way for a new country album and serve as a testament to his evolution as an artist. When you  listen to both albums back to back, it becomes increasingly evident that Labelle is constantly reinventing himself with each transition.

Labelle marks himself as a songwriter first and foremost. “The best songs draw on personal experience,” he says. “Without sounding ungrateful or discounting it in any way, ‘Heartbreak Coverup,’ albeit the bestselling single of my career to date, has never been a deeply personal nor emotionally binding song to me,” he admits.

“This goes back to the kind of record I was making at the time and feeling somewhat pressured to produce a giant pop album, which I believe the team and I did a fantastic job of. As far as that song goes, however, I have always felt like it was a means to an end.”

Although many artists share in the same battle between the prescribed “image” the music industry deems profitable and their craft, few have been fortunate enough to arrive at a place they feel truly represents them. “On this third record, I have returned to Nashville to write nearly every song on the album, and I couldn’t be happier with the result,” he says. “They say the third time’s the charm, and I wholeheartedly agree.”

When discussing the songwriting world, he shares how it too has its own bumps in the road to contend with. Happily, he offers up a bit of advice for aspiring songwriters.

“The music industry is often full of promises and ‘hurry up and waits,’ ” says Labelle. “It’s a business that asks for quick results usually to be followed by long-drawn-out periods of quiet — pending either rejection or triumph,” he adds.

“Persistence shouldn’t be a hard-learned lesson, but in this business it often can be.”

But it hasn’t always been sold-out crowds and recording sessions in Nashville. Labelle has had his share of embarrassment. “I joined a pop group at one point in my teens called Identically Different. I was the guitar player and everyone else danced,” he says. “That didn’t last too long.”

And Labelle has some advice for parents of musically minded children dreaming of pop stardom: never stop dreaming. “My parents have always supported me. Growing up in a neighbourhood where most kids went on to be doctors and lawyers, it’d be safe to say I probably caused my parents a fair amount of stress,” he says.

“But they never hesitated to help me pursue my dreams — whether that help came in the form of piano lessons, guitar lessons or words of encouragement. There have been ups and downs on the road, as there are with anything else, but I’ve always felt their support, and that has been so important in helping me get to where I am today.”

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